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Posts Tagged ‘Secretariat’

 

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(Source: Facebook.)

 

The heart and mind process imminent endings before they actually happen. There are reflections, a fondness for the past tense, a sense of distancing the self from the event, because when heart and mind know an ending is upon them, they rehearse.

But eyes and mind are different, as they must be, since the eyes live in an eternal present. On January 29, 2017 California Chrome left his stall on the Gulfstream shed row to begin a new career at Taylor Made in Kentucky. Eyes and hearts watched him go for the final time, saw the empty stall, began to register the absence.

As I watched Chrome leave his home in Los Alamitos, I knew in my heart what Art, Alan, Dhigi and Raul were feeling. They had welcomed me into Chrome’s world, closing the space between the far-away me and themselves, and as the van pulled out of Los Alamitos for the last time I was filled with sadness. “The eyes are the window of the soul” and my soul was right there beside the people who made Chrome’s stall a home.

Chrome’s departure for Gulfstream had almost nothing to do with the Pegasus and everything to do with the closing chapter of a brilliant career for me. And along with the Team Chrome family, I knew I’d miss the presence in my life of this magnificent copper horse and his honest, courageous heart.

 

TEAM CHROME: IN THE BARN AND ON THE TRACK

Trainers Art & Alan Sherman, exercise riders Willie Delgado (until April 2015 approx.) and Dhigi Gladney (April 2015-January 2017 approx.), groom Raul Rodriquez and jockey Victor Espinoza comprise the “hands on” of Team Chrome, the people who did everything from picking out his feet to teaching him how to win.

And they did it brilliantly, while always making time for the press and their colt’s devoted Chromies by throwing open windows to the tribulations, trials and excitement of campaigning a great horse.

(Videos: from 2014, produced by David Trujillo and Blood-Horse, respectively):

 

Art Sherman was not entirely a stranger to the media, having been champion Swaps’ exercise rider in 1955, at the age of eighteen. Between 1957-1979, Sherman was a professional jockey, turning to training thoroughbreds after that. And even though California Chrome was Sherman Stables’ first Kentucky Derby contender, Art brought a depth of knowledge about thoroughbreds to the table. His down-to-earth, straight-shooting and always cordial style set the bar on what it means to be a consummate professional. The Shermans are sportsmen and they love the game. Art’s admiration for Shared Belief and Arrogate was palpable following their victories over Chrome, and bespoke a classy gentleman of the track.

In the three/four years that the colt and his trainers were under the microscope they taught us all so much — not only about California Chrome, but about the life of a trainer responsible for a North American racing icon. Expressions like, “He (Chrome) ran his eyeballs out…” and “He’s just a cool horse,” became part of my lexicon, as did the familiarity of Art in cap and jacket, hands in his pockets, answering still another round of questions.

Of all the interviews with Art, this one, after his colt’s win in the 2016 World Cup, is my favourite. I was so thrilled for Art, Alan, Dhigi and Raul that I danced all around the living room, my eyes glazed with tears.

But glamour of Dubai aside, the largest percentage of Chrome’s racing life happened at the Sherman Stables in Los Alamitos (and before that, at Hollywood Park). It’s easy to forget just how much time thoroughbreds spend in their stalls or in training; a trainer’s greatest skill is keeping his horse happy during the (sometimes) long stretch between races. Keeping a horse “well within himself” is based on familiar routines, appropriate exercise and attention from those who are most important to him/her. Centre stage are the exercise rider(s) and the groom(s) and it is the latter who often become a thoroughbred’s best friend. As with dogs and cats, the person who cares for them is, in the horse’s mind, the person to whom they belong.

Enter Raul Rodriguez, who accompanied Chrome from his very first start to his retirement (video produced by the Blood-Horse in 2014):

 

Raul’s bonuses from Chrome’s wins have allowed him to purchase a home amid an 80-acre ranch in his home, Jalisco (Mexico), where he intends to retire. As I write this, Raul is with his boy at Taylor Made, helping him to settle in. And I’m remembering Eddie Sweat taking Secretariat and Riva Ridge to Claiborne, and that photo of Eddie in tears, leaning against a stone wall….. May your goodbye be a kinder one, Raul.

Raul and his boy, CALIFORNIA CHROME

Raul and his boy

It was William Delgado and Dhigi Gladney who put the muscle on America’s 2014 and 2016 Horse of the Year. Working in tandem with Art and Alan, they were the ones who taught the juvenile his job. Through their hands and voices, Chrome learned about gallops, works and cooling out. They taught him how to break from the starting gate and how to change leads on the fly. It was from Willie and Dhigi that he received praise, and began to understand how to work with a rider instead of against him. Too, it was from Willie that the colt first heard “the question” — that moment a thoroughbred is invited to really run. With Dhigi came the fine tuning — sharpening Chrome’s sensitivity to his rider’s commands, helping him move fluidly from one “gear” to another. And both of these fine young men had everything to do with the champion’s “attitude” towards racing.

Delgado worked Chrome as a juvenile and then until April 2015, teaching him many key lessons along the way (video produced by America’s Best Racing in 2015) :

And it was Dhigi’s beautiful smile, cordiality and enthusiasm that lit up the last 18 months of Chrome’s career, as he added his skill to the racing repertoire of the champion (video produced in 2017 by Gulfstream Park):

 

The accomplished Victor Espinoza was Chrome’s jockey throughout most of his career. Victor is a man known for his generosity with fans. But he is also the man that guided Chrome home, giving him confidence when he needed it and helping him navigate safely through traffic. There is another kind of intimacy between a jockey and a horse he knows well, and it was when Victor took over the irons in the King Glorious Stakes at Hollywood Park in 2013 that California Chrome began to turn into the Chrome we know and love. There was a chemistry between them. An understanding. And it was Victor who took care of Chrome in his final start, making certain that the horse got back to the barn without sustaining what could have been a fatal injury.

Here they are in the August 21, 2016 Pacific Classic, where they took on an absolutely stellar field:

 

TEAM CHROME: THE OWNERS

Msrs. Steve Cobourn and Perry Martin were the first owners of California Chrome and through the eyes of two new to the sport, we shared the ups and downs of Chrome’s early career. One can only wonder how many newcomers were inspired to get into the game by knowing the enthusiastic duo and their copper-coated colt with his purple silks.

Mr. Perry Martin and Mr. Steve Cobourn

Mr. Perry Martin and Mr. Steve Cobourn

Although Perry Martin had wanted to retire the colt in 2015, partner Steve Cobourn sold his share in the horse to Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky and the whole game plan changed. When the Taylors joined Team Chrome, the colts silks turned from purple to chrome, literally. Too, following his loss in the 2015 Dubai World Cup, he was sent to Taylor Made after a stint spent in the UK before returning to the Shermans for the 2016 racing season. It was a joy to see him hanging out in Kentucky and I thought the idea a brilliant one: since Chrome would retire to Taylor Made, I wondered whether or not getting used to the place would ease the transition, when it came.

But in Taylor Made, the Champ found a new home. A family business where he was greeted with deep respect and love.

Chrome playing with Taylor Made Stallion Manager, Gilberto Terrazas (video produced in 2015 by Armando Reyes)

This superb Blood-Horse video features the story of post-UK Chrome (2015) right up to the Dubai World Cup win (2016) and gives viewers a great look at what Taylor Made is all about:

 

 

Leading up to California Chrome’s retirement, the new partnership busied themselves setting up a form of “super syndicate,” partners who will make a 4-year commitment to Chrome at stud and assure him great mares.

Through the final campaign in the Champion’s career, Taylor Made were there. And when he arrived at the farm, they found their own way to make it clear that they knew we Chromies were out there.

(Video produced on Jan. 30, 2017 by Taylor Made Sales Agency Inc.)

 

 

(Video produced on Jan. 30, 2017 by Taylor Made Stallions)

 

 

THANK YOU, TEAM CHROME.

Thank you for your warmth and kind generosity.

Thank you for reaching out and “seeing” me — and understanding what it is to love a horse.

And thank you, Chrome. You made my heart soar. You made me feel wonder.

And I will love you forever.

 

 

(Video by David Truhillo, Nov 2016)

 

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L.S. has been a faithful reader of THE VAULT since we started up, five years ago, in 2011. 

So it was that when she contacted me to say that she was planning to make her first visit to OLD FRIENDS in Kentucky, I was quick to send back my enthusiastic response. And I made a request, “If you can, please give ‘my boy’ Tinner’s Way a carrot and tell him that his friend Abigail loves him.” (I had made my first visit to OLD FRIENDS just last September, where Tinner and I established one of those connections that is impossible to forget. He actually called out to me as we were leaving and, honestly, if I could have done it, I would have stayed there with him forever.)

A few weeks back, I heard from L.S. who wanted me to know that she was back and had some photos from her visit that she wanted to share with myself and all of you.

So it is with the greatest pleasure that I ask you to welcome THE VAULT’S first Guest Editor and her beautiful narrative of a first visit to a very, very special place. 

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I’ve had an interest in horse racing dating back probably to 1972, when my aunt suggested we watch the Kentucky Derby and bet on the results with nickels. I saw Riva Ridge win, and I was hooked on horse racing from that point on. I rooted for Sham in 1973, disappointed at his inability to overcome Secretariat’s greatness, and hoped one day I could visit my favourite thoroughbred, wherever he was. I continued to follow horse racing through my teens, less later on as I raised my children and was involved in other family-related activities, but I still tried to at least watch the Triple Crown races each year.

In the spring of 2016 we were blessed with our first grandchild, a girl. I was planning a road trip to Chicago to visit with her, and while doing research for interesting attractions along the way and back I came across the Old Friends website. After reading about Old Friends, I realized that, aside from seeing my sweet baby girl in Chicago, I wanted most to visit this rescue and retirement home for thoroughbred horses in Georgetown, Kentucky. Visitors to Old Friends must register for a tour, so I emailed the organization, and was informed that there were two tours a day, at ten and three. I knew the morning tour was not possible due to our traveling schedule, so on the day of our departure, I pushed to get us on the road out of Chicago by 6:00am, so that we could make it to Georgetown in time for the 3:00pm tour!

We arrived in Georgetown, checked in at the hotel, and off I went to see the horses at Old Friends, especially Silver Charm. I made it to the farm by the time the tour was about to start, loaded down with only two cameras, one bottle of water, and sporting a large-brimmed floppy hat. A small group was gathered to the side of the main office building, waiting for the tour to start. I checked with the desk personnel and yes: my name was still on the tour list! I hurried over to join the group, which consisted of a nice mix of younger and older visitors.

Our tour guide was Tom, a soft-spoken older gentleman toting a bucket of chopped up carrots. Before we started down the slope towards the horses, he outlined some rules, including not getting too close to the horses. One young visitor asked if the horses would bite, and Tom said “all horses will bite”. Tom encouraged questions, even those from the younger children, and spoke fondly of the horses that were residents at Old Friends. I asked Tom about Abigail’s friend, Michael, and was told he was around, we might see him. My follow-up question was about seeing Tinners Way, so I could give him an extra carrot for Abigail. Tom informed me that Tinners Way was not on that day’s tour, he was in a paddock farther than we were going to go. Oh well.

And then, away we started, walking down a graveled driveway toward the barns and paddocks situated on the rolling hills behind Old Friends’ main entrance.

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“…walking down a graveled driveway towards the barns and paddocks…” Photo and copyright, L.S.

Our first stop was next to a paddock that held a beautiful golden chestnut, identified by a sign as Genuine Reward. His name was familiar, and just as I thought, he was the offspring of the incomparable Genuine Risk, the winner of the 1980 Kentucky Derby, and only the second filly to win in the history of the race. She had difficulties bringing any of her pregnancies to full term, and Tom informed us that this son of hers, Genuine Reward, was one of the only two offspring who survived to adulthood. I did ask who his sire was, and Tom took out his phone to look it up: the well-known Rahy. Genuine Reward never raced, but even at his age, twenty-three, he is a beautiful horse, and looks very similar to his mother. I was enchanted, and one of the first visitors to offer him a carrot, provided from Tom’s bucket.

GENUINE REWARD. Photo and copyright L.S.

GENUINE REWARD “… one of only two offspring who survived to adulthood.” Photo and copyright L.S.

Across the lane from Genuine Reward was Sarava, a Belmont Stakes winner, and spoiler for War Emblem’s Triple Crown bid in 2002. He is a very nice looking dark horse, in more ways than one!

SARAVA

SARAVA “…spoiler for War Emblem’s Triple Crown.” Photo and copyright, L.S.

We continued down the road, visiting with Game on Dude, who would not allow his paddock-mate, Cat launch, to eat any carrots! We had to walk down the path a little further in order to feed Catlaunch, as he kept back from the fence while Game on Dude was monopolizing our attention. Both were also very good-looking thoroughbreds, and I noticed that Game on Dude appeared to have more of an Arabian “dish” look to his face.

GAME ON DUDE

GAME ON DUDE “…who would not allow his paddock-mate, CATLAUNCH, to eat any carrots!” Photo and copyright, L.S.

Across the pathway we met and fed Amazombie, and his paddock-mate, Rapid Redux. Most of the horses we saw at Old Friends had halters with engraved name plates; some halters also included career highlights of the horse included on the plates.

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“Across the pathway we met and fed AMAZOMBIE…” Photo and copyright, L.S.

 

RAPID REDUX

“…and his paddock-mate RAPID REDUX.” Photo and copyright, L.S.

We were not allowed to get close to another Kentucky Derby winner, War Emblem, as he was in a “time out” paddock, with a double fence between the visitors and this retiree. Tom explained that, after years of racing and being used in breeding, War Emblem did not have the best disposition, and was separated for his own good, and the safety of others.

"We were not allowed to get close to WAR EMBLEM

“We were not allowed to get close to WAR EMBLEM… (because he) did not have the best disposition.” Photo and copyright, L.S.

At this point of the tour we were joined by a gentleman who had ridden down to our location using a golf cart. I’d been asked by Abigail to say hi to “Michael” for her, and when I discovered this gentleman was Michael, I passed on her greeting, and he replied favorably of Abigail. I also mentioned that she had asked me to feed Tinners Way an extra carrot “for her”, and I was disappointed that that particular thoroughbred was not on that day’s tour. At this point, Michael offered to take me in the cart up the road to where Tinners Way was housed, and I readily, and eagerly accepted his offer! I did grab a couple carrots from Tom’s bucket before getting in Michael’s cart.

Michael

” At this point, Michael offered to take me in the cart up the road to where Tinners Way was housed…” Photo of Michael Blowen and “Tinner” and copyright, L.S.

We rode up the hill, past a barn, and to a paddock in which a chestnut horse was standing, with a mesh covering over his eyes, and so I met Tinners Way, son of the great Secretariat! It was obvious that this horse was special to Michael, and he talked at some length about the horse, and how Old Friends was started. I was able to give Tinners Way two carrots, and I seem to recall being bold enough to touch his velvety nose. After a few minutes spent with the elderly racehorse, we climbed back into Michael’s golf cart, and talked about Forego and Forli and some other famous horses before I was dropped off with the tour group.

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I’M CHARISMATIC and ARSON SQUAD. Photo and copyright, L.S.

 

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DANTHEBLUEGRASSMAN “…seemed to be more interested in cribbing the railing than eating carrots!” Photo and copyright, L.S.

I was glad to see I’d not missed much of the tour, as they were just finishing up visiting with I’m Charismatic, Arson Squad, and across from them, Danthebluegrassman, who seemed to be more interested in cribbing the railing than eating carrots! I took a couple quick pictures, then hastened to catch up to the tour, which was making its way around and down the final turn, toward a very special horse.

That special horse was Silver Charm, the champion that I really wanted to see, and even at his advanced age, he still looked great, though much more white than in his racing days. Tom had imparted a little biography with each of the horses we’d visited, but I don’t recall much about this horse, as I was soaking in just seeing this champion in the flesh. I do recall feeding him at least one carrot, and I might have stroked his nose lightly, I can’t recall for sure. I guess I was rather star-struck!

SILVER CHARM

SILVER CHARM: “I guess I was rather star-struck!” Photo and copyright, L.S.

Across from Silver Charm’s area was the horse graveyard, with markers for all the horses that had been residents of Old Friends at the time of their death. While many of the horses had names I was not familiar with, I knew by the markers whose progeny they were. I was very sorry to have missed being able to visit Gulch, Fraise, and Kiri’s Clown, the last who was the son of Foolish Pleasure, one of my favorite Derby winners.

The final thoroughbred on the tour was Alphabet Soup. I am not totally sure, but I think this guy is one of Tom’s favorites, just by how he talked about him. For an elderly, sway-backed horse, Alphabet Soup had a lot of charisma. The kids gravitated to him, and he was fed several carrots. One of my pictures shows “the look of eagles” in this old-timer.

ALPHABET SOUP

ALPHABET SOUP and Tom. Photo and copyright, L.S.

 

ALPHABET SOUP

ALPHABET SOUP “…had a lot of charisma.” Shown here with Tom, one of Old Friends’ tour guides. Photo and copyright, L.S.

But Alphabet Soup was not the last of our equine tour, as Little Silver Charm awaited us and our attentions. A tiny pony, he had been saved from slaughter many years ago by Michael, the Old Friends founder, and named after Michael’s favorite race horse, Silver Charm. How could Michael know then that eventually Little Silver Charm would be pastured close to his namesake, the original Silver Charm?

"Two Charms" -- LITTLESILVERCHARM and SILVER CHARM with Michael Blowen, the founder of Old Friends. Photo and copyright, Liz Read for THE VAULT

“Two Charms” — LITTLE SILVER CHARM and (BIG) SILVER CHARM with Michael Blowen, the founder of Old Friends. Photo and copyright, Liz Read for THE VAULT

With this last stop, our tour was over, and we headed up the slope toward the main office. However, I noticed a gravestone, all by itself in a small paddock, with the infamous name “Noor” engraved across its front. I caught up with Tom, and asked him about this particular stone. The story of Noor’s stone was then related to those of us remaining from the tour: many of the farms where famous racehorses were buried were being bought for development. Apparently, one of the original employees of the farm where Noor was buried recalled the location of the burial plot, and after getting permission, the remains of Noor were exhumed, and reburied at Old Friends. For those of you not familiar with Noor, he was the son of Nashrulla, and was owned and raced by the same man who raced Seabiscuit, Charles S. Howard.

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It was a very gratifying, satisfying visit, and I plan to visit again as time allows. Since I have a grandbaby in Chicago, it might not be too long before I walk the fields and roads of Old Friends again.

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View of part of Old Friends. Photo and copyright, L.S.

 

ALPHABET SOUP. Photo and copyright, L.S.

ALPHABET SOUP. Photo and copyright, L.S.

 

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Dedicated to the Kunz family and Susan Watt, Executive Director of Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, with love. Special thanks to Monica Mohr, Steve Leonard and Wayne at the BLM, Canon City CO for their support and kindness. To my dear friend, Jim Pettyjohn: Without your partnership in this endeavour it could all have ended in a dull whisper. 

 

 

LADY'S SECRET with BEAR WITNESS as a colt foal. Photo and copyright Steve Haskin. Used with permission of Steve Haskin.

LADY’S SECRET with BEAR WITNESS as a colt foal, with Joan and Amanda Haskin and the Glenney family. Photo and copyright Steve Haskin. Used with the written permission of Steve Haskin.

 

BEAR WITNESS (SKIP AWAY X LADY'S SECRET) at auction in 2015.

BEAR WITNESS (SKIP AWAY X LADY’S SECRET) at auction in 2015.

I don’t remember how I came across the news that a young couple had pulled an emaciated gelding out of a horse sale and determined that he was the son of Skip Away and Lady’s Secret.

Foaled on April 9, 2000, the colt who carried the bloodlines of Secretariat, his champion daughter and the incomparable Skip Away, came into the world at John and Kim Glenney’s farm. It was clear from his iron-metal coat that he would be a grey. But what he wouldn’t turn out to be was a racehorse. He made 16 starts and a little less that five thousand dollars (USD) before his owners, caring and good people who would eventually get out of the thoroughbred business because of what they saw happening to horses like Bear, gave the gelding to a woman who trained show jumpers. In an article published online by The Dodo, John Glenney pointed out that when it was obvious that a thoroughbred wasn’t going to run, they were given away to trusted individuals to find new careers. Potential owners were interviewed by the Glenneys to assure that the horse in question was going to the best possible home.

Bear already suffered from a condition known as EPM, and had received costly treatment throughout his time with the Glenneys. Given his medical issues, it was critical that he be given to someone who would continue his treatment.Despite all of this good intention and despite the fact that the Glenneys were nothing if not “Type A” in researching where their horses were going, “Bear” slipped through the cracks. (Having done some horse rescue myself, I need to add that the numbers of times I talked to caring, responsible owners who thought their horses had been adopted into loving homes was legion.)

It seems likely that Bear’s second owner was legitimate, but over the time he goes off the radar, changing hands numerous times until he ended up at a horse auction in Tennessee.

 

Not only was BEAR WITNESS starving, he was also covered in cuts and abrasions.

Not only was BEAR WITNESS starving, he was also covered in cuts and abrasions.

 

The young couple who saw him just couldn’t turn away. So home he came with John and Jessie Kunz.

“…It took a month for Kunz to gain the horse’s trust. ‘I couldn’t even touch his face he was so terrified,’ she said.

‘He had a big, bloody open wound on his back leg,’ Kunz said. ‘He hadn’t been fed in a month and his hooves had not been maintained — they had not been cleaned out, shoes checked, kept moist. He could barely stand or walk.’

Originally from Germany, Kunz says she had never been to a horse and tack auction, where various farm animals and gear are sold, in Tennessee before. What she saw there horrified her. Bear was covered in rain rot, a bacterial infection of the skin that causes scabbing and hair loss, from head to tail. ‘He was down from 1,400 to 500 pounds,’ Kunz said. ‘People were shocked at the cruelty. I just couldn’t stand it. I went to [Bear’s owner at the time]. He took $250 and I took Bear home.’

A month after being moved to Kunz’s care, Bear slowly started gaining weight and trusting people again.” (reprinted from THE DODO, https://www.thedodo.com/bear-witness-horse-abuse-1571398906.html)

But despite all their love and care, Bear couldn’t be saved. He fell in his paddock in October and was unable to get up. The decision was made to have him humanely euthanized. Bear Witness was 15 years old.

 

BEAR WITNESS with Jessie.

BEAR WITNESS with Jessie.

 

Learning that Bear had been put down was shattering news for the many who flocked to his FB page daily. It came as a shock that a son of the mighty Skip Away and the brilliant Lady’s Secret would be entitled to anything less than a life of care and respect, because we all want to believe that our society takes care of the horses that we love.

But John and Jessie Kunz knew better, and their grief was visceral.

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In mythology, the horse stands proud. In almost every culture throughout history, horses are bestowed with greatness, honour and gifts. The Celts and Native Americans believed that horses travelled between this world and the next, carrying souls to their final resting place.

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EPONA, or RHIANNON, depicted in Celtic jewelry.

Blame it on my Celtic ancestry: when a death touches me, I always long for a horse to carry that soul into its future.

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My Facebook home page is always crowded with horse rescue postings, messages from lobby groups like the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition, and the work of brilliant photographers associated with different horse breeds all over the world.

It was there that I first saw her face and it stopped me in my tracks.

As in, “Drop everything, be still and just look at me.”

 

 

First encounter.....and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

“Drop everything, be still, and just look at me.”

 

A bay mustang mare in a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) online auction, she had been captured in the Antelope Hills of Wyoming in 2011, when she was only a yearling. She was exquisite. The expression in her eyes reached out to me, travelling across the internet as though there was no medium dividing us. Even with a red rope hanging around her neck (she was officially # 9579), her dignity refused to be diminished. Despite coming to a place where she could only see the wild hills from behind the rails of her small paddock, she knew she was meant to be free — and so there was sorrow in those deep, dark eyes too.

 

She could see the hills that were forbidden....

She could see the wild hills through the paddock rails…..

As many of you know, the mustang is in terrible, terrible trouble in Canada and the United States. In the former, a handful still exist on the Prairies but they are under constant threat of being rounded up; in the latter, the BLM has been charged with the unenviable task of “gathering” wild horses all over the country as their habitat becomes increasingly overtaken by cattle ranchers. As the argument goes, since America’s mustangs were protected under federal law, they have done too well, i.e. there are too many of them. So one solution has been to gather them up and try to sell them off at online and real-time auctions. Despite a veritable city of activists and lobby groups, some mustang herds have been reduced to less that 60 individuals and others have been wiped out altogether. These “gatherings” of mustangs takes no account of genetics, making it quite likely that some important bloodlines are being removed permanently, increasing the risk of inbreeding inferior animals.

 

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Antelope Hills Herd, Wyoming, 2011: This was “my” mare’s herd and how they were “gathered.” She is quite possibly in the photo — a yearling filly, running for her life. Used with the permission of Carol Walker.

 

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Antelope Hills Herd, Wyoming, 2011: Part of the herd in the containment chutes. Used with the permission of Carol Walker.

 

The mustang came to North America long before the arrival of the Spaniards, crossing the Bering straight into a new world. These “dawn horses,” as they were called, roamed free along with the American camel, sabre-toothed tiger and the wooly mammoth. The native American horse is the only animal that survives from this world.

The American mustang began as a "dawn horse" during pre-history, living on the plains with the American camel, wooly mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers.

The American mustang began as a “dawn horse” during pre-history, living on the plains with the American camel, wooly mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers.

In the face of # 9579 I saw not only dignity and sorrow, but the palimpsest of a being older than time, whose journey to me had taken place over thousands of years.

 

#9579 running in her paddock.

#9579 running in her paddock @ the BLM.

 

The plight of this mare — one of so many posted on the BLM online auction site — haunted me.

But before I could intervene, I needed to find a home for her and someone who could bid on her once I had secured a place for her to live. (Canadians are prevented from online bidding, for reasons I never looked into.) So, working with my friend, John Pettyjohn, I began to search for mustang rescues within proximity of the mare’s location. Which, in turn, led to Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

As I learned more about Black Hills, I knew that this was where I wanted “my” mustang mare to live. In fact, Black Hills is where I wanted to live!

The stories below, written by founder Dayton Hyde about two of Black Hills’ personalities told me more about the spirit of Black Hills than any “fact-based” documentary ever could:

And then there was Dayton’s story of Medicine Hattie:

But I learned that there was another treasure at Black Hills: Susan Watt, the Executive Director and driving force behind her partner, Dayton Hyde’s, dream. Without Susan’s vision, expertise and skill, Black Hills today might have looked very different. But under her guidance, the Sanctuary thrives as well — or better — than most non-profits. And a good thing too. Because if there’s one thing she can count on, it’s the calls Susan gets every day about horses needing rescue. So when I called, she wasn’t surprised to hear my request.

 

Executive Director SUSAN WATT, who brings vision and strategic planning to Dayton Hyde's dream.

Executive Director SUSAN WATT, who brings vision and strategic planning to Dayton Hyde’s dream.

Having worked for a number of non-profits during my career, I understood “the basics” they all share, the central one being the constant search for funding. I suspect that Susan was relieved to find that Jim and I were prepared to sponsor our mare, once we had purchased her. And so this amazing woman from South Dakota and two people she had never met, one from Montreal and the other from Portland, began to plot the adoption and return to freedom of mare #9579.

And then there were two: #8869, a mare of the same age also gathered from the same herd, turns out to be #9979's best friend.

And then there were two: #8869, a mare of the same age, gathered from the Divide Basin herd in Wyoming, turns out to be #9579’s best friend.

Jim and I sent more money than was needed to secure # 9579 and Susan suggested we look into whether or not the mare had a best friend. Sure enough, she did. It was another bay mare, with a bit of white on her hind leg, who had been captured the same year from the Divide Basin herd of Wyoming. So we bought her as well.

This all happened in November 2015. It would take until March 2016 for the best friends to set foot on the vast reaches of the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in South Dakota.

 

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Once we had “our girls” and had secured the best home in the world for them, Jim and I decided that they should be named in honour of Bear Witness.

We named the first mare Maya Littlebear and asked John and Jessie Kunz to name her BFF. The name they chose was Felicitas Witness aka “Tassy.”

MAYA LITTLEBEAR (foreground) and FELICITAS WITNESS (bay mare in background, looking into the camera) shown together @ the BLM in Canon City, Colorado. They arrived at Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary on March 10, 2016.

MAYA LITTLEBEAR (foreground) and FELICITAS WITNESS (bay mare in background, looking into the camera) shown together @ the BLM in Canon City, Colorado. They arrived at Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary on March 10, 2016.

Maya and Tassy: carry Bear into your future and anoint him with your joy. You are his eagle feathers.

(“Prairie Lark Gets Her Eagle Feather” filmed at Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary)

 

BONUS FEATURE

Take a tour of the amazing Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary on their website or (below) on video: http://www.wildmustangs.com

Videos:

BLACK HILLS WILD HORSE SANCTUARY: THE MISSION

FREE TO RUN: AN AFTERNOON AT BLACK HILLS WILD HORSE SANCTUARY

 

 

REFERENCES

Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary

http://www.wildmustangs.com

“What Happens To Racehorses Who Never Win?” at The Dodo: https://www.thedodo.com/bear-witness-horse-abuse-1571398906.html

Wild Hoofbeats: Carol Walker

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com

Bureau of Land Management, Canon City, Colorado

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Using history as a guide, if I was shopping for a potential champion, I’d be looking for an “ugly duckling.”

NORTHERN DANCER by Brewer, Jr.

NORTHERN DANCER by Brewer, Jr. The colt was royally bred, but so tiny that E.P. Taylor failed to sell him as a yearling. In fact, potential buyers laughed when he was paraded out with the other yearlings!

Of course, none of the thoroughbreds discussed in this article were ugly. Not literally. But metaphorically, there was something about each one of them that hearkens back to Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale: they seemed to be ugly ducklings but what no-one saw at the time was that they were not ducklings at all. Some weren’t good-looking enough. Others took too much time to come into their own. And still others were waiting for a special someone to come along, someone who looked into their eyes and saw who they really were.

The individuals whose stories appear here are only the proverbial “tip of the iceberg” — VAULT readers will certainly be able to name many others who fall into this category.

And it all adds up to this: If there’s any “secret” to finding yourself another Frankel or American Pharoah or Black Caviar or Treve, it has to do with looking “under the feathers.”

“UGLY DUCKLINGS” #1: TOO UGLY TO EVER BE A CHAMPION

Perhaps we can’t help it. Horses are beautiful animals and thoroughbreds can be exquisite. And no matter how often horse folk remind us that beauty and talent don’t necessarily go hand in hand, it’s all too easy to ignore when you’ve got a plain bay standing next to a magnificent chestnut…….

 

KINCSEM (filly, 1874-1887)

This lovely print of KINCSEM shows off her lustrous liver-chestnut coat, massive chest and powerful hindquarters.

This lovely print of KINCSEM shows off her lustrous liver-chestnut coat, massive chest and powerful hindquarters. But it was painted in hindsight, when the world already had learned that she was incomparable, making one doubt its absolute accuracy.

She may well have been the greatest thoroughbred of them all, winning 54 times in as many starts on two different continents. Kincsem took on all comers and was so devastatingly good that she also ran in 6 walkovers when no-one would run against her.

But at her birth, she was declared by her owner-breeder, Ernest Von Blaskovich, to be the ugliest foal that he had ever seen — and most agreed with him. When Von Blaskovich offered the majority of that year’s crop of foals to Baron Orczy, the latter purchased all but two — and one of the rejects was Kincsem.

Here is one fairly accurate description of a thoroughbred that was so brilliant she actually paused to graze before taking off after the others, only to win going away:

She was as long as a boat and as lean as a hungry leopard … she had a U-neck and mule ears and enough daylight under her sixteen hands to flood a sunset … she had a tail like a badly-used mop … she was lazy, gangly, shiftless … she was a daisy-eating, scenery-loving, sleepy-eyed and slightly pot-bellied hussy …” (Beckwith in “Step And Go Together”)

As a broodmare, Kincsem was pretty decent, although she never duplicated herself. But through one of her daughters, she comes down to us today in the bloodlines of Coolmore’s fine colt, Camelot. In her native Hungary, Kincsem is a national hero and a film based on her life (although it appears that the mare isn’t its central protagonist) is due for release in 2016.

For more on this remarkable thoroughbred:

https://thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/kincsem-the-mystery-and-majesty-of-an-immortal/

And on the film:

http://www.euronews.com/2015/10/06/multi-million-dollar-hungarian-movie-hopes-to-compete-with-hollywood/

 

IMP (filly, 1894-1909)

IMP in 1898, going to post at Hawthorne Race Track.

IMP in 1898, going to post at Hawthorne Race Track.

 

She was the 1899 HOTY and twice won the honours for Champion Handicap Mare (1899 & 1900). She had her own theme song (below): “My Coal Black Lady.” And she was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1965.

But when she came into the world, the tiny daughter of Fondling (1886) by the stallion, Wagner (1882) was looked upon poorly by her owner-breeder because she wasn’t pretty and her conformation showed not the slightest hint of promise. But her owner-breeder, D.R. Harness of Chillicothe, Ohio kept her anyway, perhaps because the fact she was bred in the purple overrode his misgivings. Her ancestry included direct descent from the Darley Arabian, Eclipse and Lexington.

Imp raced an unthinkable number of times: 171. But she won 62 times, with 35 seconds and 29 thirds and raced more against the boys than those of her own sex. She set track records from 1 3/4 to 1 1/16.

By the time she was retired, at the age of eight, she was a national figure.

For more about Imp:

https://thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/my-coal-black-lady/

 

PHAR LAP (gelding, 1926 – 1932)

“Bobby” as he was called by those closest to him, arrived in the stable of trainer Harry Telford looking like a very, very sorry excuse for a racehorse. Which, in turn, precipitated the first crisis in Phar Lap’s biography, unbeknownst to the scrawny, dishevelled colt who had been born in New Zealand and was a son of the promising sire, Night Raid. Trainer Telford had bought Bobby for owner, David J. Davis, who rushed over excitedly to see his latest acquisition. After a moment of silence, Davis went ballistic. The compromise was that Bobby would be leased to Telford for a period of three years, the trainer covering all costs and the owner getting one third of the colt’s earnings. Assuming he could run.

How big was PHAR LAP? Have a look at these figures! Photo and copyright, Victoria Racing Museum, Australia.

How big was PHAR LAP? Have a look at these figures! Photo and copyright, Victoria Racing Museum, Australia.

The rest, as they say, is history: Bobby aka The Red Terror aka Phar Lap (meaning “lightning/bolt of lightning/lights up the sky” in the Thai language) was a champion. His great heart, together with his victories, moved Australia and New Zealand — and the racing world– to fall in love. And, in 2016, we are still in love with him:

Bobby’s risky run @ The Melbourne Cup in 1930 should have been a movie:

https://thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com/2013/11/08/bribes-threats-bullets-phar-laps-melbourne-cup-1930/

 

WAR ADMIRAL ( colt, 1934-1959)

“Sons of Man O’ War ought to look different,” Mr. Riddle decided, as he looked at Brushup’s new foal. It was a bay colt with no real pizzazz to it …. and it was tiny. Riddle found it impossible to hope for much from the little fellow, who much-resembled his dam. And Brushup had been hopeless as a runner, pretty as she was. Riddle tried, in vain, to hand the colt over to his partner, Walter Jeffords Sr., but when Jeffords refused, it was decided that Brushup’s boy would stay in the Riddle stable until he showed what, if anything, he had as a runner.

War Admiral [2006 Calendar, Nov]

 

By the time he was a three year-old, Riddle had learned that even though The Admiral was the size of a pony (15.2h) he did, indeed, carry his sire’s blood.

And that blood would show in not only in War Admiral’s Triple Crown, but also in the breeding shed. As a sire, his contribution to the breed was as definitive as was the impact of sons and daughters like Busanda, Busher, Bee Mac, Searching, War Jeep and Blue Peter on the sport itself. War Admiral led the general sire list in 1945, the 2 year-old sire list in 1948 and the broodmare sire list in 1962 and again in 1964.

Although The Admiral’s sons were not influential as sires, both Busanda and Searching made a huge impact. Their descendants include the likes of Swaps, Buckpasser, Numbered Account, Iron Liege, Hoist the Flag, Gun Bow, Striking and Crafty Admiral, as well as two Triple Crown winners, Seattle Slew and Affirmed. Other descendants of note from the War Admiral line include Dr. Fager, Alysheba, Cigar and, most recently, Zenyatta.

To this day, breeders point with pride to War Admiral in the lineage of their thoroughbreds. What the name connotes is timeless, synonymous with the very essence of the thoroughbred.

For more on War Admiral:

https://thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/war-admiral-the-little-horse-who-could-and-did-for-john-shirreffs/

 

ZENYATTA (filly, 2004)

As the tale is now famously told, the yearling daughter of Street Cry did not look her best in the sales ring as a yearling, due largely to a case of ringworm. But David Ingordo could see beyond all that. And Ann Moss has recounted how she and the filly seemed to “just click” at first meeting at Keeneland, just as though Zenyatta had chosen her.

When the hammer fell, the filly had been acquired by the Mosses. But she was not their only purchase that year and shortly after their yearlings arrived at Mayberry Farm, they received a call from Jeanne Mayberry. Jeanne had this to say,”Either you bought yourselves some very slow yearlings or else that Street Cry filly is very, very good. Because when they’re out together running, she leaves them all behind as though they aren’t even moving.”

Prophetic words.

But fast as Zenny was, it took time and patience to “get her right,” as the Mosses’ Racing Manager, Dottie Ingordo Sherriffs, has said. But when trainer, John Sherriffs, did get her right, the result was the birth of an American racing legend:

Retired with a record of 19 wins and 1 second place in 20 starts, Zenyatta’s fans have not diminished in the slightest. At this writing, Zenyatta is the only filly/mare to have ever won two different Breeders’ Cup races and the only filly/mare to ever have won the BC Classic.

 

“UGLY DUCKLINGS” #2: STANDING IN THE SHADOWS

In any institution, whether a school or a sport like horse racing, it works out a lot better if everyone develops in the same, linear way. Couple that with our love affair with speed — intelligence being linked to quickness and, in the case of thoroughbreds, ability with running fast enough to win, preferably at two — and you have the “cracks” through which genius and greatness all-too-frequently slip ……..

 

EXTERMINATOR (gelding, 1915 -1945)

 

 

EXTERMINATOR. Copyright The Estate of Bob Dorman.

EXTERMINATOR. Copyright The Estate of Bob Dorman.

The story of “Old Bones” is famous. He’s as legendary a figure in American thoroughbred racing as Man O’ War — and some say he was the best of them all. High praise for a big, coarse gelding who was bought as a rabbity for a flashy colt named Sun Briar, the hope of  Willis Sharpe Kilmer for the 1918 Kentucky Derby.

The man who first saw under the surface of the lanky chestnut with the deep, dark eyes was trainer Henry McDaniel. It was he who studied Bones and Sun Briar as they worked, noting the intelligence of the former at dealing with his moody running mate. And when Sun Briar couldn’t run in the Derby — and after considerable lobbying by McDaniel and Colonel Matt Winn, the President of Churchill Downs — Kilmer agreed to let the ugliest of his horses run instead. And so it was that Exterminator stepped on to a muddy track and transformed, in three minutes, from an ugly duckling to a Swan King.

To read more about Exterminator: https://thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/a-collectors-mystery-exterminator-and-bob-dorman/

 

DISCOVERY (colt, 1931- 1958)

 

Discovery, a brilliant runner and outstanding broodmare sire, won Horse of the Year in 1935 over Omaha. Discovery appears 4X5X4 in Ruffian's pedigree.

DISCOVERY on the track. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

The son of Display had a brilliant, dazzling chestnut coat and lots of chrome. Born at Walter J. Salmon’s Mereworth Farm and owned by Adolphe Pons, the colt was impressively bred and ran head-first into the accompanying expectations. Predictably, he disappointed, winning only 2 of 13 starts as a two year-old.

At three he appeared again, looking fit enough. However, among the 3 year-olds that year was a colt named Cavalcade, who had already beaten Discovery the year before. In the Derby, Discovery chased Cavalcade home; in the Preakness, he finished third to High Quest and Cavalcade.

But Discovery was just getting going. He went on that same year to win the Brooklyn and Whitney Handicaps, and then set a world record time for 1 3/16 miles in the Rhode Island Handicap.

But his finest years were at four and five. In 1935, the colt won 11 of 19 starts, carrying an average of 131 lbs., gaining him the nickname “The Iron Horse.” Retrospectively named 1935 Horse of the Year (over Triple Crown winner, Omaha) and throughout 1936, Discovery’s winning ways continued. Of his Whitney win, the New York Times wrote that the chestnut ran “…the most decisive victory to be scored in a big American stake in many years.”

DISCOVERY was named Horse of the Year for 1935. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

DISCOVERY was named Horse of the Year for 1935. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

As a sire, it was Discovery’s daughters who gave him purchase on immortality, producing the great Native Dancer, Bold Ruler and Bed O’ Roses.

 

SEABISCUIT (colt, 1933-1947)

Rejected outright as a colt foal because of his size and conformation, the little son of Hard Tack languished as a runner until he hooked up with trainer Tom Smith, who could see right through the disguise. In Smith’s hands, “The Biscuit” blossomed into a horse with fire in his blood. It was the Depression Era: a good time for a hero to come along. Especially one who had once been “not good enough,” through no fault of his own. He battled back from defeat. He battled back from injury. And he taught America how to look a setback straight in the eye — and vanquish it.

Enjoy this rare footage of The Biscuit at work and play:

 

RED RUM (gelding, 1965- 1995)

 

 

RED RUM at work on the beach. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun

RED RUM at work on the sands of Southport, England. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun

 

“Beloved”  is probably the first response when someone speaks his name. Or “Immortal.” Something like that.

In its long, distinguished history the National Hunt has known many great horses, but none who rose to the standard of Red Rum. He was, quite simply, the greatest steeplechaser who ever lived.

By the time Donald “Ginger” McCain got his hands on the bay gelding, he had won a few one-mile races over the flat before being passed from one training yard to another. The horse who had descended from the great St. Simon, and whose name originated from the last three letters of his dam (Mared) and sire (Quorum) was never going to amount to much, running in cheap races with modest purses.

GINGER McCAIN WITH RED RUM PICTURED AT HIS STABLES BEHIND SECOND HAND CAR SHOWROOM. SOUTHPORT 1975. pic by George Selwyn,119 Torriano Ave,London NW5 2RX.T:+44 (0)207 267 6929 M: 07967 030722 email: george@georgeselwyn.co.uk Vat no:3308110 05

Ginger McCain with RED RUM, pictured at his stables behind his used car dealership in Southport, 1975. Photo and copyright, George Selwyn.

The first thing that McCain set out to do was to rehabilitate the gelding, who suffered from the incurable disease, pedal osteitis, a disease of the pedal bone. (This was discovered after the trainer paid a goodly sum for “Rummy” on behalf of owner, Noel le Mare.) The “cure” was swimming and long works on the beaches of Southport. And it worked miracles. Red Rum blossomed into a tough, rugged individual. (It should be noted that Ginger adored Rummy and the horse was never put at-risk in any of his races, unlike the situation when he was running on the flat.)

The result was not one, but three, wins in the Aintree Grand National, arguably the greatest test of any horse’s courage and stamina in the world. His first win came at a time when the Grand National was flirting with extinction. It needed a hero and it got one, in the form of a thoroughbred once-destined to run on the flat until he could run no more, and a used car salesman who “also” trained National Hunt horses — and saw something quite different in his Champion’s eye:

 

JOHN HENRY (gelding, 1975-2007)

“For the first two years of his life, John Henry had been peddled like a cheap wristwatch.” (Steve Haskin, in John Henry in the Thoroughbred Legends series)

JOHN HENRY at work.

JOHN HENRY at work.

To say he was “difficult” doesn’t even come close: for what ever reason, John had a nasty disposition, despite his workmanlike performances on the track. It would take trainers (and there were many) like Phil Amato and Ron McNally to work their way around temperament issues to gain the gelding’s trust before the John Henry we now know and admire emerged.

In his 3 year-old season, there were glimmers of ability. But from 1980 to his final win, at the ripe old age of nine, John Henry turned out to be the stuff of greatness. And not only was it his “arrival” as a turf star: John’s rags-to-riches story captivated fans who even today, almost nine years after his death, still revere his memory. Indeed, for many, John Henry is one of a pantheon of superstars, right up there with Exterminator, Man O’ War, Secretariat, Ruffian and American Pharoah.

By the time he was retired to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, John had twice won the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year (1981, 1984), with 39 wins in 83 starts and earnings of over six million dollars USD. His 1981 election as Horse of the Year was unanimous and at the time, unprecedented for a nominee to receive all votes cast. In addition, John was inducted into the American Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1990.

 

ISTABRAQ (gelding, 1992)

Unlike John Henry (above), whose bloodlines were blue collar, Istabraq came from a royal line: a son of Sadler’s Wells (Northern Dancer) whose dam, Betty’s Secret, was a daughter of Secretariat. Owned by E.P. Taylor, the Canadian thoroughbred breeder and owner of Northern Dancer, Betty’s Secret was sent to Ireland in 1987 to be bred to some of Northern Dancer’s British sons. Taylor died two years later and the mare, in foal to Sadler’s Wells was purchased by Hamdan Al Maktoum.

The foal she was carrying was Istabraq.

ISTABRAQ as a foal with his dam, Betty's Secret (Secretariat).

ISTABRAQ as a foal with his dam, Betty’s Secret (Secretariat).

The colt foal seemed to understand from the very beginning that he was “someone special.” And indeed he was destined to be — but it took time.

The colt’s name was Sindhi for “brocade” but the weave of him proved inferior on the flat, where he managed only 2 wins. His jockey, the great Willie Carson, described the youngster as a “slow learner” who “…also lacked speed and was not at home on fast ground…I came to the conclusion that the reason he was struggling was because he had no speed. In fact, he was one-paced…”

As a three year-old, he developed foot problems. He was, in fact, flat-footed, making shoeing him a problem. When Istabraq refused to quicken in his last race as a three year-old, despite Carson’s aggressive ride, Sheikh Hamdan let trainer John Gosden know that it was enough: Istabraq was to be sold.

John Durkan started his career as a jockey.

John Durkan started his career as a jockey before becoming an assistant trainer to the great John Gosden.

When John Durkan, Gosden’s assistant trainer, heard that Istabraq would be listed in the 1995 Tattersall’s sale he resolved to acquire him. He saw possibilities for Istabraq, but not on the flat — as a hurdler. Having informed Gosden that he would be leaving to go out on his own, Durkan began searching for a possible buyer for Istabraq and found one in J. P. McManus, a wealthy Irishman who had made a fortune as a gambler. Following the sale at Tattersall’s, McManus shipped Istabraq back to Ireland with the understanding that the colt would be trained by Durkan. In his young trainer, Istabraq had found someone who believed in him.

“He is no soft flat horse. He is the sort who does not get going until he’s in a battle. He has more guts than class and that’s what you need, ” Durkan told McManus, “He will win next year’s Sun Alliance Hurdle.” Prophetic words.

"No soft

“He is no soft flat horse…” Durkan counselled J. P. McManus. And you see it here, in the power as ISTABRAQ launches, even though he’s a good distance from the hurdle.

But the young Durkan would soon be beset with tragedy, although not before watching his beloved gelding take ten hurdle races in a row from 1996-1997. Durkan was battling cancer and was shipped to Sloane Kettering Hospital in New York City; Aidan O’Brien took over training duties. By 1998, John was dying and moved home to Ireland, succumbing on the night of January 21, 1998.

Charlie Swan wore a black armband in John’s memory on the day of Istabraq’s first start in 1998, the AIG Europe Champion Hurdle. The gelding, who was now 6 years old, was a national hero and thousands turned out to watch him begin his 6 year-old season in grand style at Leopardstown:

And then this gallant thoroughbred just went on and on and on, beginning with a win two months later at Cheltenham in what would be the first of three wins in the Champion Hurdle:

Retired in 2002, Istabraq is now in the fourteenth year of a happy retirement at his owner, J.P. McManus’ Martinstown Stud. There, the horse who was voted in 2009 the favourite of the last 25 years by the Irish people, hangs out with his BFF, Risk of Thunder, and continues to greet fans who visit from all over the world:

For more about Istabraq, one of Secretariat’s greatest descendants: https://thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/secretariats-heart-the-story-of-istabraq/

 

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NOTE: THE VAULT is a non-profit website. (Any advertising that appears on THE VAULT is placed there by WordPress and the profit, if any, goes to WordPress.) We make every effort to honour copyright for the photographs used in our articles. It is not our policy to use the property of any photographer without his/her permission, although the task of sourcing photographs is hugely compromised by the social media, where many photographs prove impossible to trace. Please do not hesitate to contact THE VAULT regarding any copyright concerns. Thank you.

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Together,we saved over 20 horses from going to slaughter in Canada or Mexico in 2015. And every donation counted in this effort because no donation is too small. Hale, Trendy Cielo, Maya Littlebear, Felicitas Witness and 16 others, including two mares and their foals, thank you.

Please consider making a donation to a worthy cause so that we can help more rescue efforts in 2016.

Thank you.

https://www.gofundme.com/8d2cher4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Michael Blowen, the former film critic for The Boston Globe, came to his second career via a fondness for handicapping. At the time, he has said, he “naively” believed what he was told: that injured horses were “…going to a riding academy in Maine.” 

On my first visit to Lexington, Kentucky this June, visiting Old Friends @ Dream Chase Farm and meeting Michael Blowen was high on my list, one of three memorable visits I made over a too-short sojourn. I would have liked to have had enough time to also visit Jeanne Mirabito and the retirees @ Our Mims Retirement Haven, but two days was just too short.

Michael and Jeanne are the people I most want to be.

Together with his wife, former journalist Diane White, and a handful of dedicated employees and volunteers, Michael, like Jeanne before him, is one of those rare people who has realized a dream.

Special thanks to my friend, the photographer, artist and lecturer Liz Read for the photographs included in this article, without which my words would fall far short of the mark.

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THE VAULT has started its own horse (pony, donkey + mule) rescue fund. If you appreciate THE VAULT, please make a contribution:

http://www.gofundme.com/8d2cher4

No amount is too small and every donation is appreciated deeply. Thank you!

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It was a hot, sticky June day when Liz and I pulled into the parking lot of Old Friends.

We climbed out of the car and headed into the office/gift shop, where Michael was to meet us. I was excited alright, but also feeling very shy, clutching a gift that I had brought him in one hand. The gift was a photograph from my own collection, of Precisionist during his racing days. It belonged to Michael in a way that it could never belong to me. Precisionist was one of those who became special to Michael, as animals do when you form that “connection” to them, a kind of psychic current that just doesn’t happen all the time and is therefore precious when it does.

Michael and I first met in virtual reality. When I began THE VAULT, one of the first pieces I wrote was about Black Tie Affair and Michael; and after it was published, Michael sent me a personal note, saying he was printing it and hanging it up in the barn. I was delighted, since I knew that “Blackie” was another one of those “special” horses in Michael’s life. And so our erratic correspondence began. When I knew I was coming to Lexington, I got in touch and Michael wrote to say that he would be pleased to meet Liz and I.

The office/gift shop wasn’t particularly busy, but the minute I walked through the door I could feel the happy hum of staff and volunteers. There was laughter, people darting between office and gift shop, lots of smiles.

old-friends-2015

Then Michael appeared, crackling with the kind of “zenergy” that you’d expect. It’s the zone you get into when you create something you love, bringing it from nothingness into being. I didn’t need to ask Michael if all the worries along the way were worth it.

It’s not easy, loving and caring for seniors. They won’t live forever and you know that. But Michael and his team love completely even as they hold lightly. Meaning: they don’t possess the horses, they care for them, and consider it a privilege to have each one in their lives.

Before hopping into one of the farm’s golf carts, I gave Michael the photo of Precisionist and his face lit up. I was still having trouble getting any semblance of order together in my head because I was pinching myself and thinking, “Here I am. In Kentucky. With Michael Blowen.” But I hardly needed to worry because as we chugged up the lane to the horses, Michael engaged us in an easygoing, natural conversation and by the time we reached the first retiree, both Liz and I were feeling as though we’d known Michael for a lot longer than what amounted to about ten minutes.

First stop was the cemetery. Under the trees they lie, the horses Old Friends has laid to rest. Each grave has a plaque and looking over them all is a sculpture of three prancing horses by artist Fred Krakowiak. Precisionist, Black Tie Affair, Ruhlmann, Marquetry, Creator, Sunshine Forever, Polish Navy, Patton, and Jade Hunter, to name but a few, are now visited by the memories of those who pass by this way. One of Old Friends’ cats, who found the shade and quiet a perfect place for a long, languid nap, reminded me that these departed ones lay at the heart of the farm for a reason.

One of OLD FRIENDS' kitties hanging out in the shade of the cemetery. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

One of OLD FRIENDS’ kitties hanging out in the shade of the cemetery, next to the grave of BLACK TIE AFFAIR. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Old Friends HALL OF FAME, where the spirit of greatness mingles with the scents of summer in the Bluegrass. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Old Friends HALL OF FAME, where the spirit of greatness mingles with the scents of summer in Bluegrass Country. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Most people come to Old Friends for the first time to see one special horse and I was no different.

My special horse was Tinner’s Way. I had missed the Secretariat baby I loved most, Terlingua, and I was not going to make the same mistake with Tinner, whose life and times I had followed from his arrival in Bobby Frankel’s barn through his stallion career to his retirement at Old Friends.

But before Tinner, there was a veritable pantheon of great thoroughbreds and, predictably, I was besotted with each one.

Gulch, despite Michael’s efforts, wasn’t in the mood for either carrots or socializing. And, as I told Michael, “Hey, he’s GULCH and if he doesn’t want petting, well, that’s just the way it is,” which made him laugh as he nodded in agreement. And it really didn’t matter that this superstar wasn’t a cuddle bug, since just seeing “Gulchie” as he was on that day did nothing to take the lustre off a moment that I will treasure forever.

GULCH, aka "GULCHIE" by Liz Read. Copyright, Liz Read.

GULCH, aka “GULCHIE” by Liz Read. Copyright, Liz Read.

On we puttered in our little cart, to visit Belmont Stakes winner Sarava, the gentle Eldaafer (and his goats), Danthebluegrassman ( a grandson of my beloved Terlingua), the popular MSW Rail Trip, recent arrival Game On Dude, champion Rapid Redux and the exquisite Affirmed Success with his buddy, Flick. Michael not only had carrots aplenty, but stories about each one. And just the way a parent does when teaching a toddler to speak, Michael told their story looking into their eyes, making it clear to the horse that he was speaking about and for them. I’m almost certain that Michael did this unconsciously, since it’s a natural human response that we all have, but the interaction still spoke loud about who Michael Bowen is and how he feels about the thoroughbreds of Dream Chase Farm.

Of Game On Dude, he recounted how Bob Baffert had given him “the third degree” before agreeing to his brilliant gelding coming to Old Friends. The way Michael saw it: “But it was great, you know. He even came here to check up on us. Bob really cares about his horses and that makes me feel good.”

Lovin' THE DUDE: GAME ON DUDE with Michael and I. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Lovin’ THE DUDE: GAME ON DUDE with Michael and I, as Michael tells me how much trainer Bob Baffert cares about his horses. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

RAIL TRIP with Michael. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

RAIL TRIP with Michael. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

The very handsome DANTHEBLUEGRASSMAN. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

The very handsome DANTHEBLUEGRASSMAN. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Multimillionaire AFFIRMED SUCCESS, a son of Triple Crown winner AFFIRMED and his "masked companion," Flick. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Multimillionaire AFFIRMED SUCCESS, a son of Triple Crown winner AFFIRMED and his “masked companion,” Flick. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

“Eight year-old Affirmed Success still getting it done” in the Carter Handicap:

Of Eldaafer, a son of A.P. Indy out of a Tabasco Cat mare, Michael was quick to point out his championship ways, sounding like a proud Papa, “He won the Breeders’ Cup Marathon and over a million {dollars USD},” as he stroked the gelding’s face. It may be a time when speed trumps at the track, but it was impossible not to admire the heart and stamina of this bay gelding who met my touch with such sweetness.

The great ELDAAFER and one of his companions. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

The great ELDAAFER and one of his companions. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

 

Eldaafer “stays all day” to win the 2010 BC Marathon:

Then we were off up the lane to one of the furthest paddocks, to visit with Tinner’s Way. As my heart raced in anticipation, I mentioned to Michael that I thought of the little chestnut as “Mr. Grumpy,” given what I knew about his ways and Michael quipped, “Yup.” As the golf cart pulled up at Tinners’ paddock, Michael — in the kindest possible way — gave us to understand that Tinner might well ignore us, adding that he would offer the first carrot, should the old stallion come over to greet us, “…just in case.”

But, as fate would have it, Tinner was feeling gregarious (by Tinner standards, that is) and trotted over, taking the first carrot he was offered like a gentleman.

Now, as some of you reading this know, horses have a “way of talking” that is different from the way they use their bodies to communicate. Dogs and cats speak this way too. But your heart needs to be open. You need to be listening. (Nor will every horse, dog or cat you meet speak to you because some just don’t. No idea why, other than the obvious: there’s just no interest in relating to you beyond the basic.)

DSC_0352

The deepest touch of all: TINNER and I connect. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

But, as I held out my hand to him, Tinner spoke to me. And, like the way my own furry beings speak to me, it was non-verbal and closer to feeling than conscious thought. But I felt affection running through my fingers, up my arm and straight to my heart. I knew we were connecting and it touched me deeply.

I wanted to stay with him forever. Never go home. Just stay there, in this state of total bliss. Eventually, we climbed back into the golf cart to head on back. But Tinner just stood there, whickering softly, wanting me to stay. Tears filled my eyes as we departed, but Michael made me laugh: struggling for composure, I told Liz, “Tinner is Secretariat’s last foal from his final crop and he was a champion, trained in the USA by Bobby Frankel.” To which Michael responded, “Yeah, but we don’t talk to him about that.” (Translation: Tinner is who he is, not his daddy’s son, and we love him for being himself.) I smiled at Michael’s Buddha-like intervention, because it pulled me out of my sadness and told me that he understood.

Where are you going? Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

“Where are you going?” Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

"Ah, c'mon ... Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

“Ah, c’mon …” Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Please don't go. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

“…Pleeeease don’t go.” Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

 

Last but hardly least, Michael introduced us to Little Silver Charm and (big) Silver Charm. We exchanged “Shetland pony” stories, mine of learning to never turn my back on a Shetland, Michael of rescuing the feisty little guy, who has since mellowed into a cross between a pony and a big, happy, gentle dog. Soon to meet up with a busload of Middle School students (LOL!), Michael generously took time to introduce us to (big) Silver Charm, who turned out to be still another “talker.”

In fact, his voice was stirring and loud, and what I felt was a HUGE urge to grab a saddle and bridle and take him for a canter. He just takes you into an equine embrace. A champion stallion who is as beautiful on the outside as the soul within.

Michael brought out LITTLE SILVER CHARM for us to meet. Photo and copyright,

Michael brought out LITTLE SILVER CHARM for us to meet. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

The beginning of our conversation. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

The beginning of our conversation. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

I'm saying, "SILVER CHARM, do you know how wonderful you are?" Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

I’m saying, “SILVER CHARM, do you know how wonderful you are?” Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Charming CHARM. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Charming CHARM. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Folding into a caress. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Folding into a caress. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Michael with two of his "favourite people." Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Michael with two of his “favourite people.” Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

It was clear that Silver Charm has only ever known kindness and understanding, a fact that Michael stressed. The Japanese were fabulous to work with and generous in every way in bringing Silver Charm home. Nor is it Michael’s first experience with Japanese horse farms and he wanted us to know that the way forward is to shelve negative feelings about American thoroughbreds in Japan. In fact, early talks are underway to bring Charismatic home (once his stud career is over) and, once again, the Japanese are proving to be wonderful partners.

http://www.stayintouchwitholdfriends.com/2011/09/charismatic-in-japan-is-doing-great.html

 

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The great Brazilian teacher, Paulo Freire, once spoke of visiting a remote village in Central America where he and his team were going to embark on a critical literacy program with the inhabitants, and where he came across one of the women building a clay pot. As he watched her, Freire observed, “The idea that we inherit a culture that is readymade and unchanging is false. We make culture ourselves, each one of us, out of the materials we have and our actions in the world. This pot was never in the world until this woman created it. And now the world and the culture that gives it meaning is changed forever by the coming into being of what she has made with her own hands.”

This is my point of reference when I think about Old Friends, and the pioneering work of Jeanne Mirabito of Our Mims Retirement Haven, which in-spired the former simply by “coming into being.”

Michael, Jeanne and those who support their vision have done something very remarkable. They have not only created sanctuaries for thoroughbreds where they are safe, respected and loved, but they have also brought the horses’  stories into the world — and changed the culture of our sport forever.

So, dear reader, do remember to change the world by taking action in it.

By giving your support any way you can to Old Friends and Our Mims you begin that process in your own life, while honouring the ones — equine and human — who showed you the way.

 

JO-JO GYPSY’S RECOVERY (OUR MIMS RETIREMENT HAVEN, 2015):

 

WEBSITES

Old Friends @ Dream Chase Farm:

http://www.oldfriendsequine.org

Our Mims Retirement Haven:

http://ourmims.org

Old Friends @ Cabin Creek:

http://www.oldfriendsatcabincreek.com

 

BONUS FEATURES

1) Michael Blowen The Optimist

2) Our Mims: Making A Difference

3) Ruhlmann and Michael (2008)

4) Our Mims: a video by Cane Ridge Elementary School (2010)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On two continents, over three weeks in June, STORM CAT continues to exercise his influence over the development of the thoroughbred and horse racing history.

This tapestry of STORM CAT and owner-breeder William T. Young, The Master of Overbrook Farm, hangs in

This tapestry of STORM CAT and owner-breeder William T. Young, “The Master of Overbrook Farm,” hangs in the University of Kentucky library.

Breeding a champion takes a long time. And it’s inconvenient in the 21st century, when our concept of time is so different, thanks to things like the social media. In a world where Twitter pumps out race results one second (literally) after the horses cross the finish line, the prospect of waiting thirty years to get another Frankel or thirty-seven years to get the next American Triple Crown winner isn’t all that appealing.

But another way of looking at this is to realize that any thoroughbred is a work much like the tapestry of Storm Cat and owner-breeder William T. Young that hangs in the University of Kentucky library in Lexington, Kentucky. A thoroughbred is textured of many threads — and many life stories — coming down to us through time.

If we appreciated this, we could reform how we manage the Earth and all of her creatures. And, as though to encourage us, Storm Cat’s “thread” hovered over the 2015 Triple Crown and, across the Atlantic in England, over the pomp of Royal Ascot 2015.

William T. Young’s great stallion died in 2013, at the age of 30, leaving in his slipstream a gallery of champion colts and fillies, and stallions whose progeny continue to contribute to Storm Cat’s legacy — and to the survival of the Bold Ruler line. During his active years as a stallion, Storm Cat sired a bevy of runners who excelled as two year-olds and favoured a distance of 7f. Among his best were Kentucky Oaks winner Sardula, Harlan (sire of the excellent stallion Harlan’s Holiday), Hennessy (sire of the brilliant Johannesburg), the champion After Market (now standing in Turkey), 2005 Sovereign Award Winner Ambitious Cat, the leading miler and Coolmore champion, Black Minnaloushe and millionaire Bluegrass Cat, the dam of champion Sky Mesa, himself a successful sire.

Other excellent prodigy include Caress, BC Classic winner Cat Thief, champions Catinca and Sweet Catomine, Desert Stormer, Courageous Cat, Good Reward, Coolmore’s Hold That Tiger, BC Distaff winner, Mountain Cat, Juddmonte’s Nebraska Tornado, Newfoundland, One Cool Cat, millionaire Raging Fever, Japanese multimillionaire, Seeking The Dia, the fabulous filly, Sharp Cat, BC Juvenile Fillies & Eclipse award winner, Stormflagflying, Vision and Verse, champion Tabasco Cat and the 2009 BC Distaff winner, Life Is Sweet (below,winning the BC Distaff in 2009 for owner M. Wygood and trainer, John Shirreffs).

Storm Cat’s record of great thoroughbreds of both sexes was absolutely stunning during his lifetime. Arguably the best of all his progeny was Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway, “The Iron Horse,” who gave Storm Cat a classic runner, one of the few he produced during his stud career. As a sire, Giant’s Causeway is well on his way to becoming a sire of sires, notably through sons like Shamardal and Footstepsinthesand. Other European runners of classic lines include the aforementioned filly, November Snow, and Black Minnaloushe.

A delighted George Duffield rides in the Coral-Eclipse winner, GIANT'S CAUSEWAY, after the colt's gutsy win over KALANISI. The only other horse to have won the St. James's Palace and Coral-Eclipse in the same year was CORONACH, in 1926.

A delighted George Duffield rides in the Coral-Eclipse winner, GIANT’S CAUSEWAY, after the colt’s gutsy win over KALANISI. The only other horse to have won the St. James’s Palace and Coral-Eclipse in the same year was CORONACH, in 1926.

 

As a BM sire, Storm Cat was equally successful. In 2012, a year before his death, Storm Cat was responsible for, among others: Japan’s King Kanaloa (King Kamehameha ex. Lady Blossom) and Shonan Mighty (Manhattan Cafe ex. Luxury); Arkansas Derby winner and millionaire, Bodemeister (Empire Maker ex. Untouched Talent); champion Love And Pride (A.P. Indy ex. Ile de France); champion In Lingerie (Empire Maker ex. Cat Chat); Grade 2 winner City To City (City Zip ex. Stormbow) and Noble Tune, winner of $321,000 USD (Unbridled’s Song ex. Serena’s Cat). Of course, Storm Cat’s contribution to thoroughbred bloodlines as a BM sire was not confined to his 2014 record. His appearance in the first 5 generations of some exceptional individuals in their tail female bespeaks a lasting influence on the breed, both in North America and the United Kingdom, with a smattering (for the moment) in the Southern Hemisphere.

IN LINGERIE with her 2014 FRANKEL filly. The mare's BM sire is STORM CAT.

IN LINGERIE with her 2014 FRANKEL filly. The champion mare’s BM sire is STORM CAT.

A dark bay, Storm Cat was bred in the purple: his sire was Storm Bird, a champion juvenile and son of Northern Dancer and the New Providence (Bull Page) mare, South Ocean. His dam was Terlingua, a champion filly and daughter of the 1973 American Triple Crown winner, Secretariat. In the minds of those who knew Storm Cat’s female family best, like trainer D. Wayne Lukas, he was his mother’s son through and through, as were many of his offspring. According to Lukas, an American Hall of Fame trainer, the Storm Cats “… walk like her, they look like her and they have her attitude…the influence of the {dam} there was very strong.”

TERLINGUA (SECRETARIAT ex CRIMSON SAINT) during her racing career.

TERLINGUA (SECRETARIAT ex CRIMSON SAINT) during her racing career.

Storm Cat and jockey Chris McCarron win the 1985 Young America Stakes (Grade I) at Meadowlands on October 10, 1985. Photo by: Jim Raftery / Turfoto (Track Photographer)

Storm Cat and jockey Chris McCarron win the 1985 Young America Stakes (Grade I) at Meadowlands on October 10, 1985. Photo and copyright: Jim Raftery / Turfoto (Track Photographer)

 

 

And this led, in turn, to analysts making the connection between Terlingua’s precocity as a two year-old, together with her sprinter-type profile (Crimson Saint, Terlingua’s dam, was a champion speedster) and Storm Cat progeny, many of whom fell into this performance category. The time was ripe for thoroughbreds with a speed bias — and the market loved it.

So gentle was Storm Bird, that even the very young were allowed to visit him. He endeared himself to the whole O'Brien family. Then, in early in 1981, the colt sufferred an ugly assault at Ballydoyle. A disgruntled employee got into his stall and slashed off his mane and tale. Although Storm Bird appeared to recover, everything went wrong in his 3 year-old season. A brilliant career had ended.

So gentle was Storm Bird, that even the very young were allowed to visit him. He endeared himself to the whole (Vincent) O’Brien family. Then, early in 1981, the colt sufferred an ugly assault at Ballydoyle. A disgruntled employee got into his stall and slashed off his mane and tail. Although Storm Bird appeared to recover, everything went wrong in his 3 year-old season. A brilliant career had ended. (Photo and copyright, Jacqueline O’Brien)

TERLINGUA at Ashford in the Lockridge-      years with her very first foal, a filly by LYPHARD, who

TERLINGUA at Ashford in the Lockridge- Hefner years with her very first foal, a 1982 filly by LYPHARD, who was named LYPHARD’S DANCER. (Credit: Thoroughbred Times)

But Storm Cat’s sire, Storm Bird, had been a stellar two year-old himself and would likely have continued into his three year-old season had it not been for a series of unfortunate events, one of which had an absolutely devastating effect on the colt’s state-of-mind. In the late winter months of 1981 a disgruntled (Vincent) O’Brien employee broke into the gentle Storm Bird’s stall and hacked off his mane and tail before being apprehended. Ballydoyle, who had Storm Bird insured for 15 million (USD) was understandably quiet about the attack, saying only that there were no career-ending injuries. But Storm Bird, known for his sweetness and his kind eye around the stable, was never quite the same again. Hampered by physical injuries, he was retired to stand at Ashford Stud, then owned by Dr. William Lockridge and Robert Hefner. Ironically, it was Lockridge who bred Crimson Saint, the dam of Terlingua and grandam of Storm Cat, and it was Lockridge’s relationship with William T. Young, Sr., with whom he owned Terlingua in partnership, that led to her being sent to Storm Bird. (When bankruptcy plagued Lockride, Young bought a group of mares from him, including Terlingua and another Secretariat mare, Cinegita, who was bred to Storm Bird to produce Starlet Storm, the dam of champion Flanders. Shortly thereafter, Ashford was acquired by John Magnier and company as part of a settlement Lockridge and Hefner made to cover their outstanding debt on the purchase of Storm Bird.)

The Storm Bird influence is one that had the potential to mitigate against Storm Cat producing only short distance runners. And that potential might well be exerting itself from two or three generations back, in the pedigree of contemporary thoroughbred champions who happily get at least a mile over the dirt or turf.

Below is footage of the two year-old Storm Bird winning the Dewhurst Stakes from To-Agori-Mou and Miswaki, two colts who were champions of the turf.. His performance set the press buzzing, and Storm Bird was a prohibitive Epsom Derby favourite well before his anticipated debut as a three year-old:

 

STORM CAT runs in his paddock at Overbrook Farm.

STORM CAT runs in his paddock at Overbrook Farm.

So it comes as little surprise that, through sons and daughters and their progeny, the lasting influence of Storm Cat was profoundly felt over three weeks in June of this year, when America received her much-anticipated Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah, and Royal Ascot saw brilliant performances by a number of outstanding colts and fillies. And even though Storm Cat represents only a thread in the pedigree weave of these champions, none would have come into being without him. Their collective performances further attest to this amazing stallion’s resiliency and to his rightful place in thoroughbred racing history.

American Pharoah, a son of Pioneerof the Nile by Empire Maker out of the mare Littleprincessemma, a daughter of Yankee Gentleman by Storm Cat, gave North America the racing highlight of the year when he swept to the finish line in the Belmont Stakes to become America’s twelfth Triple Crown winner — after a wait of 37 years.

As though this wasn’t enough, Storm Cat’s name was as prominent as Galileo’s in the pedigrees of several of the most stunning winners at Royal Ascot this year. In addition, Storm Cat mares have proved a very good match with Galileo, as seen in two of the colts below, Gleneagles and Aloft, as well as the filly Ballydoyle, who ran a blinder against Suits For You in the Chesam Stakes. Too, previous good performers like Misty For Me have Storm Cat as their BM sire. The Galileo-Storm Cat nick has been particularly lucrative for Coolmore, attesting to the fact that Storm Cat can get excellent turf runners too.

Storm Cats at Royal Ascot 2015 put in some sterling performances:

TUESDAY, June 16

Gleneagles, the stunning winner of the St. James Palace Stakes who broke the mighty Frankel’s existing track record, is by Galileo out of You’resothrilling, a Storm Cat daughter, and full sister to Giant’s Causeway:

WEDNESDAY, June 17

Coolmore’s Acapulco, a 2 year-old filly brilliantly trained by Wesley Ward, won the G2 Queen Mary Stakes. She is a daughter of Scat Daddy (Johannesburg), placing Storm Cat in her 4th generation:

In the next race that day, Amazing Maria, ridden by James Doyle and taking on champions Integral and Rizeena, won the Duke of Cambridge Stakes convincingly. The pedigree of the 4 year-old daughter of Mastercraftsman features Tale of the Cat, a son of Storm Cat, as her BM sire:

THURSDAY, June 18

On Thursday, it was 3 year-old War Envoy, whose dam is a granddaughter of Storm Cat, who took the Britannia Stakes.

The 3 year-old WAR ENVOY scoots home for Coolmore under Ryan Moore to win the Britannia Stakes on Thursday, June 18 at Royal Ascot.

The 3 year-old WAR ENVOY scoots home for Coolmore under Ryan Moore to win the Britannia Stakes on Thursday, June 18 at Royal Ascot.

FRIDAY, June 19

Storm Cat kicked off more trips to the winner’s circle with Balios in the King Edward VII (G2). Balios is a son of Shamardal by Giant’s Causeway and Storm Cat appears in his sire line in the 3rd generation.

BALIOS with Jamie Spencer in the irons, sweeps home a winner in the King Edward VII at Ascot on June 19.

BALIOS with Jamie Spencer in the irons, sweeps home a winner in the King Edward VII at Ascot on June 19.

Aloft, a Galileo colt out of Dietrich, by Storm Cat, wins the Queen’s Vase and gives Ryan Moore, aka “Magic Moore,” a 9th win that confirms him as the winningest jockey ever at a Royal Ascot meet.

ALOFT surges to the wire to win the Queen's Vase and give his jockey, Ryan Moore, the record for most wins in any Royal Ascot meeting, ahead of the likes of the great Lester Piggott.

ALOFT surges to the wire to win the Queen’s Vase and give his jockey, Ryan Moore, the modern record for most wins in any Royal Ascot meeting, ahead of the likes of the great Lester Piggott and Pat Eddery. In 1878, the legendary Fred Archer got a dozen wins at that year’s Royal Ascot.

SATURDAY, June 20

Crack 2 year-old filly Ballydoyle didn’t win the Chesham Stakes but she came close enough that the stewards’ needed to take a long, hard look at the footage of the race. A daughter of Galileo, the young Ballydoyle’s BM sire is Storm Cat. Bumped badly near the finish and running against colts, she still got up to make all, narrowly missing the win by a short nose.

Coming to the wire, BALLYDOYLE chases home SUITS YOU.

Coming to the wire, BALLYDOYLE (#8) chases home SUITS YOU.

How close was it? SUITS YOU (outside) and BALLYDOYLE (Inside near stands) at the wire.

How close was it? SUITS YOU (outside) and BALLYDOYLE (inside, near the stands) at the wire.

 

This is one article that doesn’t require an epilogue, because Storm Cat’s story isn’t done.

We can look forward to more threads in more pedigrees as time goes on.

Because that’s how great thoroughbreds are made.

This beautiful 2014 Frankel colt is out of India, a winning granddaughter of Storm Cat. With descendants like these, the future looks to be bright for Storm Cat.

This beautiful 2014 Frankel colt is out of India, a winning granddaughter of Storm Cat. With descendants like these, the future is filled with hopes and dreams that honour the memory of Storm Cat, and the Bold Ruler sire line in his safe-keeping.

 

BONUS FEATURES

1) Two year-old Storm Cat goes up against some other very good colts to win the 1985 Young America Stakes:

2) Storm Cat’s son, the incomparable Giant’s Causeway (running on dirt for the first time under Mick Kinane/#14), makes a courageous run at Tiznow in the BC Classic — and just misses by a nose:

3) Short documentary on Terlingua, with cameos of Storm Cat:

4) TOO CUTE! Trainer John Shirreffs tries to wake up Storm Cat’s daughter, Life Is Sweet, to “go to work”:

5) Multimillionaire Seeking the Dia (Japan):

 

NOTE: THE VAULT is a non-profit website. (Any advertising that appears on THE VAULT is placed there by WordPress and the profit, if any, goes to WordPress.) We make every effort to honour copyright for the photographs used in our articles. It is not our policy to use the property of any photographer without his/her permission, although the task of sourcing photographs is hugely compromised by the social media, where many photographs prove impossible to trace. Please do not hesitate to contact THE VAULT regarding any copyright concerns. Thank you.

 

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We’ve been here many, many times before and this year it’s all about American Pharoah, whose misspelled name has only made his wins in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness more distinctive.

The delight and the doubts have dominated the press in North America since Zayat Stables’ American Pharoah began his Triple Crown bid, first by winning the Kentucky Derby and then by romping to a Preakness victory in the slop, winning by a margin only equalled by Smarty Jones 11 1/4 victory in the 2004 Preakness (above).

But then came the Belmont…..and the undefeated Smarty, who had won every heart along the way, suffered his first — and only — career defeat. To say that it was a heartbreaker would be an understatement.

It’s 2015, and here we go again.

And what can be studied to ascertain whether or not American Pharoah’s (AP) chances in a dwindling field are better than that of a champion like the great Smarty Jones? Truthfully, no analysis can be foolproof which is one of the reasons that horse racing worldwide still brims with anticipation, hope and dreams of glory.

There are a number of complex factors that will determine the outcome on June 6th and how they interrelate is where the mystery lies.

First, there is the colt himself — how tired is AP? After all, as E. P. Taylor who owned and bred Northern Dancer observed, ” If you run them enough times, they get beaten…A horse can’t tell you how he’s feeling…” And the “fatigue factor” would arguably be less relevant if the Derby and Preakness winner was going up against colts who had run in the first two legs of the Triple Crown. But he isn’t. In the Belmont, he’ll meet up with colts who are fresher, who’ve had time to rest and work up to the Belmont. AP’s had three weeks.

AMERICAN PHAROAH shown after his Preakness win.

AMERICAN PHAROAH shown after his Preakness win.

 

Then there are the bloodlines and what these might cough up in terms of indicators. AP’s bloodlines are superb on his sire line. In fact his grandsire, Empire Maker, trained by the legendary Bobby Frankel, was himself the spoiler when he won the 2003 Belmont to quash Funny Cide’s Triple Crown bid:

Empire Maker had been beaten by Funny Cide in the Derby that year, but skipped the Preakness before running in the Belmont. He was a fresher colt going in, but it’s impossible to overlook his bloodlines: Unbridled (Mr. Prospector sire line) out of the fabulous mare, Toussaud, by El Gran Señor (Northern Dancer). And Empire Maker, who stands in Japan now, has thrown a hailstorm of champions from his American foal crops, including AP’s sire, Pioneerof the Nile, Eclipse champion (2011-2013) Royal Delta and champions Sky Kingdom, In Lingerie, Grace Hall, Emollient, Bodemeister and Acomas. Pioneerof the Nile looks to be on his way to following in Empire Maker’s steps, but it’s still too early to be certain. Often, though, it takes a generation for a sire or a dam to produce a superstar like AP, win or lose on June 6. And Empire Maker has the goods to do it.

The handsome and prepotent EMPIRE MAKER.

The handsome and prepotent EMPIRE MAKER.

Of course, AP is not the only colt going into the Belmont with a great pedigree. There is the sensational Mubtaahij, who appears to like the Belmont surface and is by the hot sire, Dubawi, out of Pennegal by Pennekamp, himself a sire who showed brilliance on the turf — winning the 2000 Guineas, Prix de la Salamandre, Dewhurst and Prix Djebel, among 6 of 7 lifetime victories. If our “might skip a generation” breeding axiom kicks in here, then Mubtaahij is doubly-blessed. His dam is a Blue Hen in her own right — and let’s keep in mind that it’s the dam that hands on the powerful X in Mubtaahij’s genetic profile.

MUBTAAHIJ working at Belmont. Photograph and copyright, Emily Gricco.

MUBTAAHIJ working at Belmont. Photograph and copyright, Emily Gricco.

 

Another serious contender in the Belmont is Frosted. He’s by America’s arguably best sire, Tapit (AP Indy) out of a Deputy Minister mare, Fast Cookie. What’s interesting about Frosted is that he carries Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew on both sides of his fourth generation. And that can’t be bad. Other strong pedigrees are found in Materiality (his sire is Preakness & Belmont Stakes winner, Afleet Alex/BM sire, Langfuhr) and Keen Ice, a son of the mighty Curlin, who certainly will get the distance.

The gorgeous FROSTED has the pedigree to match. Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco.

The gorgeous FROSTED has the pedigree to match. Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco.

KEEN ICE at work over the Belmont track. Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco.

KEEN ICE at work over the Belmont track. A son of the mighty CURLIN, he has what it takes to get the distance. Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco.

 

A factor that looms large is that of the jockeys.

AP keeps his regular rider, Victor Espinoza, who is no stranger to pressure. He rode the last Triple Crown hopeful, California Chrome, in the 2014 Belmont where the colt finished out of the money, overtaken by much fresher horses. In 2002, Espinoza was astride the Baffert-trained War Emblem, but the colt stumbled coming out of the gate and never really recovered. So Espinoza knows the hype and knows the track; hopefully, he’ll ride at least one race on June 6th prior to the Belmont to get the feel of the track.

Mubtaahij will be missing his regular rider, Christophe Soumillon, and some are speculating that Soumillon’s decision to drop the ride (because of a previous commitment) speaks loud about the colt’s Belmont chances. However, the talented son of Dubawi gets the services of talented Irad Ortiz Jr. Ortiz has won a Breeders’ Cup and knows the Belmont track. Kent Desormeaux and Joel Rosario ride Keen Ice and Frosted, respectively, and both can be counted on to come up with sound performances. The great Mike Smith rides the Nick Zito-trained Frammento and these two are a formidable combination: over the years, American racing fans have learned to never count Zito out.

One of the very best: trainer Nick Zito brings FRAMMENTO into the Belmont.

One of the very best: trainer Nick Zito brings FRAMMENTO into the Belmont.

 

Then there’s the matter of the track itself. Although Saratoga has the reputation of being “the graveyard of champions,” in North America every true racing fan knows that the real graveyard is the Belmont, aka “Big Sandy.” To quote the pre-eminent correspondent of American racing, Steve Haskin, writing in Blood-Horse on June 1:

“…the fact is, many jockeys who don’t have experience at Belmont Park, especially going 1 1/2 miles, get lost on those sweeping turns, with the far turn being what I call the turn of no return. Once you make a mistake on that turn, especially going that far, there is no recovering from it.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but you do not want to get caught wide on the first turn and you certainly don’t want to go into the second turn wide. At Belmont, the ideal trip is to remain closer to the rail (if it is playing fair), then ease out nearing the quarter pole or waiting for an opening on the inside. Going wide at the five-sixteenths pole or quarter pole is not a big deal. It is going into the turn wide that leaves horses rubber-legged after turning for home, as they are forced to lose ground for a very long time while negotiating that seemingly endless turn.

…As far as staying on the rail, that is going to be up to Bob Baffert. The great John Nerud has always said the key to Belmont is knowing the track on that day and watch how the track is maintained the days leading up to the race. And he’ll be able to tell by watching all the races run on that Friday and of course on Saturday. According to Nerud, it all depends on what the crew does with the cushion. If they remove a good part of the cushion on the inside and dump it 20-25 feet out from the rail, you want to get on that rail and stay there, especially from the five-sixteenths pole to the eighth pole.. If they leave the cushion alone, because of the pitch of the track, it likely will be slower down on the inside.”

(See more at: http://cs.bloodhorse.com/blogs/horse-racing-steve-haskin/archive/2015/06/01/memo-to-victor-don-t-let-belmont-park-beat-you.aspx#sthash.q752Ur2V.dpuf)

belmont park_tc

 

Last, but not least, is the matter of statistics, those supposedly factual indicators of what a colt has got, pedigree-wise, and therefore, what he should do in a classic, 1.5 mile/12f race like the Belmont Stakes.

To help those new to the business of handicapping, we need to stress that both the Dosage Index (DI) and Centre of Distribution (CD) of any thoroughbred are, in actuality, trends used by breeders more than “facts” per se. What we mean by this is that both DI and CD are attempts to consolidate pedigree information along the lines of stamina and speed influences. The CD and DI of a thoroughbred are tied to the influences of chef-de-race stallions found in a horse’s pedigree over the first 4 generations.

But influences are just that and no more than that — even the great Secretariat’s speed-stamina profile (20-14-7-9-0) did not quite capture what he showed us on the track!

A thoroughbred’s Dosage Profile (DP), from which its DI and CD derive, is calculated based on the number of stamina-speed sire influences in a pedigree. There are five categories: Brilliant, Intermediate, Classic, Solid and Professional, with “Brilliant” denoting a preference for shorter distances (speed influence) and “Professional,” longer distances (stamina influence). Horses classified as “Classic” have an almost-equal speed-stamina ratio. The numbers assigned in all 5 categories (even if 1 or more are 0) constitute the DP. Then, through a numerical ponderation formula, the DI and CD are calculated and they indicate a trend represented by a ratio of stamina-to-speed influences that may (or may not) indicate the conditions under which a horse does best. The higher the DI or CD, the greater the speed influence.

(In fact, when we look at the CD’s of the 11 Triple Crown winners, we see just how misleading this kind of information can be if used as the sole criteria for picking a Triple Crown winner: Sir Barton @ 1.00, Gallant Fox @ 0.57, Omaha @ 0.75, War Admiral @ 0.52, Count Fleet @ 0.25, Whirlaway @ 0.10, Assault @ 0.46, Citation @ 0.04, Secretariat @ 0.90, Seattle Slew @ 0.68 and Affirmed @ 0.55. Then add, for good measure, Man O’ War @ 1.17, Alydar @ 1.10, Little Current @ 0.22 or the fabulous Smarty Jones @ 1.00 and one sees that while the CD is a useful indicator of the ratio of speed-to-stamina in an individual’s pedigree, it can also prove very dodgy for punters!)

AP comes in with a CD of 0.88, meaning that his speed influence is presumably more dominant than stamina; Mubtaahij has a CD of 0.00, showing a distinct speed-stamina imbalance that should favour stamina over speed. At 0.64, Keen Ice shows a relatively balanced speed-stamina influence; and Frosted shows a CD of 0.67. The average CD for 12 furlongs (the distance of the Belmont Stakes) is 0.43. And this is where the worm-hole that can be statistics opens up: none of the colts mentioned here compare favourably with the ideal of 0.43. But why is that? Probably because they’re babies with limited races under their belts, making it hard to assess them against a statistic that takes no account of the number of races those individuals used to reach this statistic had run.

Too, we would note that in comparing the respective DP’s of Frosted, Keen Ice, Mubtaahij and AP, the two with the most speed-stamina balance and therefore, using this theory, the most inherited Classic potential are Frosted and Keen Ice. But, again, what’s missing is the time it might take any of these youngsters to reach their Classic potential.

American Pharoah shown working at Churchill Downs pre-Belmont Stakes.

American Pharoah shown working at Churchill Downs shortly before he shipped to Belmont.

So….can American Pharoah, a brilliant colt at both two and three, give America its first Triple Crown winner since 1978? Having watched him through this year and last, we know that one thing is certain: he will do his best on June 6th. That’s the kind of honest, hard-working colt he is and it’s doubtful he knows any other way of being.

But the result on June 6th? There are no absolutes.

If the factors align for colt and jockey — from how the track plays to fatigue vs. freshness to what’s bred in the bone — then, when the gates spread and Big Sandy opens its arms, welcome all of these equine athletes….and the possibility of a Triple Crown champion.

AMERICAN PHAROAH with HOF trainer, Bob Baffert who says of his champion, "He is just the sweetest horse." Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco.

AMERICAN PHAROAH with HOF trainer, Bob Baffert who says of his champion, “He is just the sweetest horse.” Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco.

 

SPECIAL THANKS

…to gifted photographer, Emily Gricco, who generously gave THE VAULT permission for the use of her images of the Belmont contenders. If you love great photography, catch Emily on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

 

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